1:25 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I rise to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk that I do not intend at least at this time to present. But the tenor of the amendment, Mr. Chairman, would have prevented Agriculture Secretary Glickman from instituting a new Federal milk marketing order system that would put thousands of dairy farmers out of business by lowering the price paid to farmers for their milk by hundreds of millions of dollars.

On March 31, 1999, Secretary Glickman announced his final decision on the Federal milk marketing order reform process that was required under 1996 Freedom to Farm Act. Unfortunately, his decision to adopt what is referred to as a modified Option 1-B has the effect of lowering Class I differentials for milk to virtually all regions of the country with the exception of the upper Midwest.

Can my colleagues imagine passing a policy, an agricultural policy that would harm the entire country except for perhaps two or three States. It defies logic.

The Secretary of Agriculture's decision flies in the face of broad bipartisan congressional multiregional support for Option 1-A. Congressional intent behind milk marketing order reform in no way anticipated this action by the Secretary.

My amendment also would have continued existing law, meaning that it would allow the continuation of the Northeast Dairy Compact. There has been increasing support for similar such compacts around the country as a way to protect against and otherwise prevent the harm that would be done by the Secretary's proposal and the havoc that it would cause in dairyland all across the Nation.

So, Mr. Chairman, rather than offer the amendment at this time, I would like to enter into a colloquy with several of my colleagues. I see the gentleman from Texas (Mr. COMBEST), chairman of the authorizing committee, the Committee on Agriculture, here; and I appreciate the gentleman coming down to participate in this discussion today.

Would the gentleman from Texas (Mr. COMBEST) agree that the Department of Agriculture's recommendation of a modified version, Option 1-B, is unacceptable to the majority Members of Congress and more importantly the majority of American dairy farmers and would therefore have to be modified through the regular legislative process?

1:27 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I rise to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk that I do not intend at least at this time to present. But the tenor of the amendment, Mr. Chairman, would have prevented Agriculture Secretary Glickman from instituting a new Federal milk marketing order system that would put thousands of dairy farmers out of business by lowering the price paid to farmers for their milk by hundreds of millions of dollars.

On March 31, 1999, Secretary Glickman announced his final decision on the Federal milk marketing order reform process that was required under 1996 Freedom to Farm Act. Unfortunately, his decision to adopt what is referred to as a modified Option 1-B has the effect of lowering Class I differentials for milk to virtually all regions of the country with the exception of the upper Midwest.

Can my colleagues imagine passing a policy, an agricultural policy that would harm the entire country except for perhaps two or three States. It defies logic.

The Secretary of Agriculture's decision flies in the face of broad bipartisan congressional multiregional support for Option 1-A. Congressional intent behind milk marketing order reform in no way anticipated this action by the Secretary.

My amendment also would have continued existing law, meaning that it would allow the continuation of the Northeast Dairy Compact. There has been increasing support for similar such compacts around the country as a way to protect against and otherwise prevent the harm that would be done by the Secretary's proposal and the havoc that it would cause in dairyland all across the Nation.

So, Mr. Chairman, rather than offer the amendment at this time, I would like to enter into a colloquy with several of my colleagues. I see the gentleman from Texas (Mr. COMBEST), chairman of the authorizing committee, the Committee on Agriculture, here; and I appreciate the gentleman coming down to participate in this discussion today.

Would the gentleman from Texas (Mr. COMBEST) agree that the Department of Agriculture's recommendation of a modified version, Option 1-B, is unacceptable to the majority Members of Congress and more importantly the majority of American dairy farmers and would therefore have to be modified through the regular legislative process?

1:27 PM EDT

Larry Combest, R-TX 19th

Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Chairman, I would certainly be able to say yes just indicative of the fact that there is a bill to implement a different policy that I think has almost half of the Members of the House that are cosponsors of the bill. Certainly with the interest and concerns among the dairy industry, the Committee on Agriculture is certainly going to be looking into this in very short order.

1:28 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, I appreciate the gentleman's statement and clarification of [Page: H3794]

the Committee on Agriculture's position. My concern is that we need to ensure that the legislation is enacted into law before the Secretary's modified Option 1-B pricing reform is imposed on dairy farmers in my district.

1:28 PM EDT

Larry Combest, R-TX 19th

Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Chairman, if the gentleman will yield, I would indicate to the gentleman, who has been a strong advocate of a dairy policy in this country and with a great deal of interest in this, there is a bill which has been introduced that will be the vehicle on the 24th of June for a hearing in the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture that is chaired by the gentleman from California (Mr. POMBO). Very shortly after that, there will be markup on that bill, and that bill will

then move to full consideration.

Given the fact that there is a recognition of some timely concern here without the Chair's being, I believe, able to give individuals total assurances about exactly what that final product would be, the vehicle that will be used for hearing purposes and for markup I think will be very much in line with the interest of the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH) in the dairy program.

1:29 PM EDT

Richard Pombo, R-CA 11th

Mr. POMBO. Mr. Chairman, I concur with the statement of the full committee chairman. I know of the intense interest of the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH) on this issue as well as a number of other Members of the House. As we have been negotiating and working through this issue, I will assure the gentleman that this is a very important issue, not only to his dairy farmers, but to mine back home, and that we will move through the hearing, the markup process, and move legislation on

an expedited manner through the House and try to solve this problem as quickly as we possibly can.

[Time: 13:30]

1:30 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. I thank the gentleman. With the assurances received from the chairman of the subcommittee and the chairman of the full committee I will at this time not offer my amendment.

1:30 PM EDT

David R. Obey, D-WI 7th

Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, I take this time to comment on the colloquy that we just heard with respect to regional differences in the fluid milk dairy prices, and I would like to recite for this House what the history of this matter is.

Since 1937, we have been operating under an outmoded system of milk marketing orders which mandates, by law, that certain farmers in certain regions of the country be paid more for their milk than are farmers from other sections of the country. That is a Federal law, believe it or not, and it has long since served its usefulness.

When the farm bill was up on the floor 4 years ago, then-Congressman Gunderson, the chairman of the Dairy Subcommittee, tried to get a legislative remedy to that long outmoded policy, and when he did that he was blocked, cut off at the pass by the House leadership, the Republican leadership in the form of the Speaker and Mr. Solomon, who chaired the Committee on Rules. In essence, what they told Steve at the time was, ``Sorry, we are not going to give you a chance to vote on a legislative remedy;

the best you are going to get is that we will give the Secretary of Agriculture an opportunity to look at these milk marketing orders and decide through administrative action what kind of changes are needed.''

Acting under that limited authority, Secretary Glickman proposed what was known as Option 1-B, which provided very minimal changes in the milk marketing order system across the country. That was found to be objectionable by many Members of this House, certainly not me but by many other Members, and so this House last year passed legislation which blocked the Secretary from moving ahead with those changes, those reforms in the milk marketing order system.

So, then, Mr. Glickman went back to the drawing board and he produced a second modified version of his proposal, which would have provided some change, some modernization in that system, and it would have resulted in farmers in 15 of the 33 regions actually getting better prices for their milk than they do right now, and it would have had a downward pressure on some other regions.

It just seems to me that it is amazing that the folks who won by preventing us from getting a legislative decision on this issue, and who insisted that this ought to be handled through the administrative route, are now saying that they are unhappy with even the tiny changes that were made administratively by the Secretary and are now suggesting that yet another legislative action is required to selectively amend the farm bill.

I do not believe that is the right way to go. It seems to me strange indeed that in a Congress which so often talks about the need to move closer to market arrangements, that we are having people who are insisting on sticking to the status quo which blocks moving agriculture in the dairy area closer to market arrangements.

I also find it interesting that some of the same folks who say that we should have free trade internationally are some of the same folks who, when it comes to internal trade within our own country, want to put up all kinds of trade barriers, informal trade barriers, in the form of these regional compacts.

So I would simply say I cannot do anything about the colloquy that just took place between the Members of the majority party. All I can say, as one Member from the upper Midwest, is that I do not think it is fair for people to try to have this issue both ways. We were told that we should take our shot at the administrative route rather than the legislative route. That is what happened. And now the Members, at least some of the Members who just spoke, are now trying to suggest that we ought not

to have let that happen either.

We cannot move agriculture into the 20th century by sticking with this outmoded, old-fashioned milk marketing order system. And I would suggest if we are going to open this issue up, then we ought to open up the whole farm bill; that we ought to open up the question of whether we ought to have any milk marketing orders at all. We ought to be allowed to vote on the question of whether there ought to be one national milk marketing order rather than a whole series of them.

So I would urge Members to think carefully before they try to selectively reopen that farm bill.

1:36 PM EDT

Eva M Clayton, D-NC 1st

Mrs. CLAYTON. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

If the chairman will engage me in a colloquy on the funding for the USDA facilities loan program, I would like to solicit his support for the administration's funding request for programs like the community facilities loan and grant program, which finances multipurpose community centers through which local governments are able to provide services for children and the elderly, school facilities, and fire and rescue equipment.

Mr. Chairman, over 50 percent of the community facilities funds are used for a variety of health services, including rural hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, child care facilities which are desperately needed to assist in welfare reform.

There is a great need for these facilities in rural America and especially in my First Congressional District of North Carolina where local governments do not have sufficient tax resources or the sufficient tax base to provide for these essential services.